Evolution of the Jewelry Industry in America: Federal Era

Welcome back for part 2 on my series about the jewelry industry in America. We will look at the 4 periods leading up to the 20th century to give us a better idea of what to look for in trends that are happening now that will affect the jewelry industry. If you missed the first part here is a link to see how I plan on laying out the post and what other eras we will look at.

America: home of the free

The colonists are tired of taxes and English rule. Fighting for and winning independence started a trend of patriotism with Americans living in the Federal Era of 1775-1825. Taxes on imports lowered and a new wave of ideas swept over the citizens. Influenced by great thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, there was a trend for Neo-classical taste. Everything from art to fashion reflected these tastes. A classic example of the trend in jewelry was a coral tiara worn by Mrs. John Quincy Adams. This painting is dated around 1816. Mrs. Adams wore this while living in London with her husband who was serving as United States Envoy Extraordinary (Minister to the Court of St. James). Photo courtesy of Dept. of State, Washington, DC.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mrs-John-Quincy-Adams

Wearing the coral tiara above, below is a close-up of her coral tiara and an alternate jet tiara. Photo courteous of the Smithsonian Institute.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mrs-John-Quincy-Adams-Coral-Jet-tiara-comb

What was happening in this period?

  • America free from British rule
  • Wars (ex: War of 1812)
  • Reduced taxes on foreign goods
  • No organized currency
  • Innovation in manufacturing

How did these events affect jewelry trends?

  • Manufacturing in America leads to more local choices vs acquiring abroad
  • Lots of color in gems, diamonds still not super popular; topaz, amethyst and aquamarine top choices
  • Neo-classic tastes preferred, Rome trending in England and carried over to US
  • Jewelry created for state occasions, and diplomatic gifts
  • Watches easier to acquire

With a new government came new jewelry. Medals were created with a patriotic theme to be given as gifts to allies or for those in societies that had served the country. This feeling of newness inspired jewelry and clothes to model the Greek and roman era.  Innovations in manufacturing the jewelry industry reaped the benefits of mass production. Cameos were one of several items that with mass production created a way for more people to afford the luxuries that were only afforded to the wealthy and titled.

There was a trend still for mourning jewelry. Below is a brooch I saw at the Historic New England Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mourning-brooch-1793

This brooch was made in 1793. The person being remembered is Mehitable Livermore who passed away at age 29.  Her initials are given (M.L. on the urn) with the inscription on the stone, Not lost but gone before. A beautiful sentiment for a life not fully lived and a way to help those left behind find some comfort in their loss.

Not sure of what she died from but I did a little research and found she was married with five children at the time of her death at age 28. She lived in New Hampshire her whole life. The brooch is made of enamel, gold, ivory and hair. Hair jewelry was still popular as well.

What gemstones & materials were popular in jewelry at the time?

  • Pearls
  • Topaz, amethyst, aquamarine
  • Diamonds and paste
  • Amber, coral, carnelian (used in roman jewels)
  • Jet and shell
  • New materials (Wedgewood-imitation cameos, steel, iron, brass)
  • Gold and silver

You saw the coral and jet tiara of Mrs. Adams above but another warm colored stone was carnelian. I saw this picture at the Eustis Estate.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mrs-Harrison-Otis-portrait-1804

This is Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis, painted in 1804 by Edward Greene Malbone in Boston. This Massachusetts native was said to be quite beautiful and a wonderful host.  The necklace of pearls and a carnelian cross is the perfect example of the on-trend jewelry at the time. The exhibit had the cross strung with carnelian beads due to the previous owner’s preference but this cross seen below is the one in the portrait.

Federal-Era-Jewelry-Industry-Mrs-Harrison-Otis-carnelian-cross-1804

What was the role of the jeweler and jewelry store at the time?

  • Specialization occurs especially with manufacturing
  • Failure more common in jewelry industry
  • Few people buying due to wars and limited resources
  • Less taxes on foreign, non-British goods means more variety beginning of the modern jewelry store
  • More jewelers as Goldsmiths get more experience and start advertising as jewelers
  • With increase in specialization, jewelers can provide to other stores and clients outside their local community

For the jewelry industry, there is this energy of new ideas, new opportunities and an easier path to enter the jewelry business. The business outlook was good with more goldsmiths calling themselves jewelers and specializing in their trade making jewelry of their own. There was still demand for jewelry from England but now other countries could be imported and stores were soon filled with a variety of jewels. Then in the beginning of the 19th century the cracks in the government’s system widened creating problems for the jewelry industry.

Had the country been a bit more stable the opportunity to start a business may have had higher barriers, that could have saved many new to the jewelry industry the pain of failure. Several things were working against the jewelry industry in America at the time. Looking back at the what was happening at the time, no organized currency was detrimental to any business, not just jewelry. The Second United States Bank was not an institution until 1817 and still needed work that had them reorganize the system in 1819. Loans were liberally offered but many trying to make it in the jewelry industry failed near 1812 when the war broke out and supplies and customers were hard to come by.

What saved those few businesses that survived? Being very organized with their money and merchandise. Even though the taxes were changed by the new government there were still taxes on foreign goods. The government was trying to encourage more jewelers to produce their own goods, for jewelers relying on imports for their sales this created too much cost and crippled their profits, that was if the store could receive these goods with the blockades that occurred with the war. The bright side was the failed business gave way to the more established ones and the industry was on its way to creating some of the most iconic stores we know today. Next in the series is the Mid-19th century; what it was like, how it affected the trends and where it was taking the jewelry industry. Looking forward to you returning soon for more Data in the Rough!

Evolution of the Jewelry Industry in America: Colonial Era

A lot of talk has been made about the future of retail. I cannot walk down a street or look out a window on my commute without being reminded of the shift in consumer spending. Store closing and out of business signs seem to be popping up in Boston and online. Type in ‘store closing’ and see what that search brings you the words: panic, scramble and apocalypse were in the three stories at the top of my list. Much of the retail ‘apocalypse’ talk has been pointing to the apparel part of the industry. The question I ask seeing these stories is what does this mean for the jewelry industry?

To be able to better understand the future it helps to understand the past. A very overused saying but still insightful. For the rest of the month I want to focus on the jewelry industry in America. This will be a return to my book bling series by focusing on one book: Jewelry in America (1600-1900) by Martha Gandy Fales. It is divided into 4-time periods:

[1] Colonial (1600-1775)
[2] Federal (1775-1825)
[3] Mid-19th Century (1825-1875)
[4] Late 19th Century (1875-1900)

This book is more than just pictures of antique jewelry Ms. Fales looks at trends of the country and how the jewelers and jewelry stores evolved. That is how we will learn and be better prepared for the future by recognizing how trends in the country affect trends in the jewelry and the industry.

Confucius states it best, ‘Study the past if you would define the future’. Why use a quote by a Chinese scholar that lived long before the time America was founded? Because the beginning of this story starts in another country, long before America became a country of their own…

In the beginning
History tells of the Pilgrims that came over from England to worship without persecution, but traveling to a new world was typically for trade or war over resources. In 1608 John Smith was with a crew to look for new resources. Settling in what is now Virginia, Captain Smith thought practically about creating an environment for survival not treasure hunting. Reading Fales stories about Smith reminded me of the 1995 Disney movie Pocahontas. So much of that movie was inaccurate but some of the plot was following history, the villain and leader of the crew, Governor Ratcliffe, is in a mad fever to find lots of gold, but the men have no real experience with it, they are hunters and builders not goldsmiths. But that doesn’t stop Governor Ratcliffe from having the crew devote their time to digging.

Disney Pocahontas scene: Governor Ratcliffe has crew dig for gold

Well in real life goldsmiths were sent over with Smith’s crew due to the false hope of their being large amounts of gold found. In fact, the crew included two goldsmiths, two refiners and a jeweler, none of which could practice their craft in the new world. What happened when there are no materials and few customers? The jeweler returned home to England.

Realistically, the crew needed to hunt and settle the land (build shelter, etc) to survive. Like Smith was doing in the movie as he surveyed the land.

Disney Pocahontas scene: John Smith explores new world

Had to sneak of photo Disney’s John Smith in!

Once more colonists settle trade picked up but the role of the jeweler was much different than it is today.

What was happening in this period?
• People were settling in America
• English influence
• Low morality rate

I mention the top two points in my story above but to touch on the last point, with this new land came disease and poor conditions of living that lead to deaths at an early age than we have now. Death was a major part of colonial life a fact that the people embraced and accepted as best they could.

How did these events affect jewelry trends?
As people came to America and started a new life they bought some jewelry with them but the trend in this era was simple jewelry. Colonists did not have a major need for extravagant jewels when they are doing daily chores. Also, many of these colonists had religious influence that did not put a lot of value on jewelry.

With the English being the ones who lead the start of the colonies in America, England held a major influence over the jewelry brought into the country. Colonists had their jewels brought from England and imported jewelry for buying. Jewelry was also still primarily for nobility and the rich. In addition, the trend until the late 17th century was that men wore far more jewels than women. Signet rings, buckles, buttons, etc. all sparkled on men with a high status.

With a low morality rate, memorial jewelry was a major trend. Lockets, rings, cameos, anything to mark the remembrance for those that had passed.

What gemstones were popular at the time?

Cannot fit all the jewelry I’d like to in this post but a great example of garnet jewelry from the time with a famous owner. This necklace was owned by Martha Washington, America’s First, First Lady. Order from London (no surprise there) by her husband George in 1759. Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies Association, Virginia.

What was the role of the jeweler and jewelry store at the time?
Neither really existed at the time. There were not dedicated jewelers or jewelry stores. Silversmiths/goldsmiths doubled as jewelers and sold some wares in their shops. Not much was made with limited materials, skills and customers. Those that could afford the good jewelry bought from England, the most trusted source of jewelry at the time. England also had higher taxes on imports from other countries so English jewelry was what was most commonly sold.

I personally loved reading about a famous American patriot, silversmith and budding jeweler. Paul Revere was a Bostonian that has several silver pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston as well as a ring I got to see on a trip there last winter.

There were a lot of years in this period but not too much happening in the world of jewelry in America. Next, I will look at the Federal Era and America’s freedom from England and how that made great changes for the jeweler and the stores! Sign up for emails and return for more Data in the Rough!

How Oscar Heyman became the Jewelers’ Jeweler

Full disclosure I have been waiting for this book, Oscar Heyman The Jewelers’ Jeweler, to be released for almost 3 years. I follow JCK news frequently and on July 15, 2014. This story by Jennifer Heebner showed up.

I clicked on the link immediately! There was the editor detailing how this book about the over 100-year-old jewelry company was being worked on by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The main point I wanted to know was the release date, which was estimated around 2015 or 2016. Well that was pushed out, but I waited and waited. Then on February 3rd, 2017 I received an email from the Museum of Fine Arts about the book’s release on April 1st.

April 1, 2017, arrived and I called the MFA to confirm they had this book. The weather in Boston on April 1st was terrible with snow, wind and rain, a good joke for New Englanders’ thinking winter was behind them. Once I knew the book was ready to buy I made my journey, by public transportation no less, to the museum. Why go on the worst day when I could wait for a sunnier day the next? I wanted this book and the wait had been long enough. Amazon was even behind, not releasing it until the next week.

So what got me to this point? What is it that drew me to Oscar Heyman’s jewelry? It wasn’t the jewelry that got me curious about this company it was their reputation and their story.

The Beginnings

In 1901 the Heyman family sent two of their sons, Oscar and his older brother Nathan to train to be jewelers in the Ukraine. They were living in the Russian controlled area of Latvia at the time. These young apprentices manufactured jewelry and other objects for international clients and the House of Peter Carl Faberge. I had previously seen this reference to Faberge in literature about the Oscar Heyman & Brothers Company. This is what caught my eye and had me research and follow this firm for many years now.

I have written some about Faberge. He is one of my (if not my) favorite designer! My goal is to own a small item manufactured by Peter Carl Faberge’s company. It does not matter what it is, because whatever I buy will be of the best quality.  That is what made Faberge’s company so wonderful every piece no matter the size or value had to be consistent in quality. Everyone that worked for him or represented his company had to meet his high standards.

From what I have seen and learned about the Oscar Heyman Company on my own and through this book is that they have several aspects of their company that parallel Faberge’s. One being their craftsmanship and the second, relationships.

 

Craftsmanship

I see a lot of jewelry at auctions, stores, designer open houses, etc. and the over used phrase of, ‘That is so beautiful!’, is frequently heard at these events. But there must be more than beauty to make a piece of jewelry be looked at as an object of art and desire. The jewelry needs a soul.

A story I have highlighting the character of an Oscar Heyman piece, is from a Christie’s online auction preview I went to last year.  I was going through the cases, starting at one end and working around, when I heard a Christie employee telling a woman that was trying on jewelry from the case about an Oscar Heyman ring that she identified. I tried to move inconspicuously towards the two. The woman telling the story continued telling how Christie’s received a group of jewelry to be cataloged for this auction and as she was going through the jewelry, a ring stood out to her as being something that looked like it was by Oscar Heyman. There was no stamp of the designer but the worker wanted to just see if it might be one of theirs. Pictures and details of the piece were sent to the Heyman office and sure enough Christie’s was contacted and told the ring was in the Heyman archives! Making it a total of three Oscar Heyman rings being offered at this auction! The woman trying on jewelry was no longer looking at the piece she was currently trying on but taking in this fun story of discovery. She quickly asked if the piece she had on was the ring. Her ring was of a gold alligator that wrapped around her figure, most likely a Kieselstein-Cord ring, definitely not an Oscar Heyman, the Christie’s worker confirmed that.  What was the ring you ask? Well the other onlooker wondered if she had picked it but did not ask about seeing the actual ring. I looked in the case and saw three rings with a similar design, a large stone with smaller stones around it. One stood out and I had a feeling that was the ring. So I asked to see the Oscar Heyman ring and the employee picked the one I had my eye on! A yellow diamond in the center with smaller alternating yellow and white diamonds around it. What stood out to me? The setting. The stones were layered and seemed to sit a little higher than the other similarly designed rings. Picture below:

So that was one down. I spotted the second one, a ruby that was in a case by itself.

 

Had to try it on!

The third one I had to ask. This sapphire and diamond ring was in another case, two out of three is not bad!

Not every quality piece I have seen is from Oscar Heyman, but every Oscar Heyman is a quality piece.

 

Relationships

Another aspect that the book touches on is relationships the company has with their employees and retailers.

Company loyalty can be hard to find. Even when you do find a stable job the conditions can be hard to be happy in. So, it was refreshing to hear a story about how the Oscar Heyman employees handled the 25th anniversary of the company. Oscar Heyman and his brother came over to America in 1906 and founded their company in 1912. The 25th anniversary took place in 1937, a time when the country was struggling with troubling economic hardships. The day was to be like any other but the employees wanted to mark the occasion. For the silver anniversary, the employees worked in secret for fourteen months to complete a clock to present to their employers. Picture below found from post by Couture Musings:

Around the globe are the letters O. Heyman & Bros each character marking an hour. The figure on the right is to represent a workbench jeweler. The figure on the left is the god Mercury, that represents commerce and financial gain. At the silver base are the names of all the current employees for that time. It was touching to read that story and to think how much those employees must have loved working for the company to do all this!

Faberge ran a workshop that also cared for their workers. The workers had good wages, excellent working facilities and even had the opportunity to manage small businesses within the company. Many pieces not only have the stamp of Faberge but the maker in charge of that object. It gave a sense of pride and ownership to the workers. Rare for a company to be so invested in their workers.

The retailers also had favorable comments about Oscar Heyman. Mr. Heyman passed away in 1970, the book notes that one retailer recalled during the Depression how Mr. Heyman granted his clients with the option of credit and the opportunity to sell the jewelry on consignment. This helped many businesses stay open as paying for those high-end pieces would have crippled their cash flow significantly, causing them to possibly go out of business.

These businesses were not just a few retailers Oscar Heyman’s business model is selling to stores not to consumers. Black, Starr & Frost, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels to name a few had Oscar Heyman & Bros manufacture jewelry to sell under their stores name. When going to auctions you can still find pieces marked as one retailer but were created by the Heyman Company.

Below is a bracelet that was clearly marked in the Sotheby’s catalog as being from Black, Starr & Frost but on Instagram Heyman shared it as one of the pieces they manufactured. In the book a similar bracelet is pictured and credited as Oscar Heyman. Details of this amazing piece at auction are taken by me below.

Looking Forward

The book spends its time focusing on Oscar Heyman’s business from 1912-1970. Ending their story with the passing away of Oscar Heyman on July 13, 1970.  A few paragraphs mark the centennial that the company celebrated 5 years ago but the focus on the book is the company through the years.

I genuinely enjoyed the book. I was a little concerned when I saw the page count, worrying it would be all photos and no real story, like a coffee table book. It would have been the easy way to make this book.  The thought of picking from hundreds of thousands of jewelry photos seems difficult but how could you go wrong with picking any piece, especially with all the rich history? This book was to show and explain why Oscar Heyman is the Jewelers’ Jeweler. This isn’t a title they claimed for themselves like a marketing campaign. The title has been given to them by the employees, retailers and customers who have been a part of their story. I look forward to continuing to see their jewelry at auctions, in stores and on social media for a new audience to appreciate.

Links to buy the book from Amazon are here or from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston click here

The Language of Pins: Stories behind Madeleine Albright’s Collection

Legion of honor pin owned by Madeleine Albright

I was going to post this earlier but the politics got so ugly I wanted to wait until the dust settled. With the inauguration this week a question I have is what jewelry will the first lady and the daughters of the President wear? I’m sure that and so much more will be analyzed over the next four years. Some of those small choices are not given much thought but for one former White House employee there was a distinct correlation between her pin choice and her mood.

Bejeweled Mickey pin owned by Madeleine Albright, made 1989, Disney

I posted on Instagram art from the all-night event at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston a few months ago. I was unable to attend the special evening events but Madeleine Albright spoke to a group of museum attendees. Some Instagram attendees shared selfies with the former Secretary of State , I’m not posting those but will share a photo of the pin Albright was wearing. I had seen it in a book I read a few years back, Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box by Madeleine Albright. The pin is titled Breaking the Glass Ceiling, by an unknown artist.

Albright had a second pin on with the candidate she is supporting. I won’t mention that either since it only takes one guess knowing which president she served under. So, no more election talk on to the jewels.

The book is a fun read about a collector that happened to serve in a high government office but Ms. Albright’s history of collecting did not start when she got the job of secretary of state, but earlier at age 8. She was the daughter of an ambassador to Yugoslavia on a visit Madeleine’s mother was given an emerald ring surrounded by diamonds. That memory stayed with Madeleine and when she was old enough she was given that ring. The love of pins came from her college days when it was fashionable to wear pins with sweaters. Also in college, the tradition of getting pinned by your boyfriend was to be engaged. Madeleine was pinned by Joseph Albright, they had 3 children. Madeleine was still gifted pins by friends and relatives. Some antique and a few homemade. Below is a pin of beads on safety pin, common at craft fairs and similar to the one owned by Ms. Albright.

 

She had high end brooches as well like these two from Cartier.

Panther pin, Cartier owned by Madeleine Albright

 

Coral, Lapis Bird in Cage, Cartier made in 1944

How did her trademark pin wearing get started? The story is shared by Albright and starts with a snake. See below.

The Serpent’s Tale

The book goes through some of Albright’s family moments where she worn and acquired her pins but I am skipping ahead to her days in Washington where her collection got a lot more attention.

 

The major start to kicking off her jewelry collection in the White House was during Bill Clinton’s first term as President of the United States (1993-1997).  To set the scene, Ambassador Albright was coming in after the first Persian Gulf War and Iraq was required to accept the UN inspections and disclose about all their weapons programs. Saddam Hussein, the Iraq leader at the time, would not comply causing Albright to publicly criticize him. A poem was printed by the Iraq press in retaliation to Albrights behavior. I won’t reprint the poem but use the phrase that caused the start of her pin phase. In the poem the poet referred to Ambassador Albright as an ‘unparalleled serpent’, among other unflattering things. So when Iraq officials were scheduled to meet with her again she need to find the right item to make a statement. This coiled snake pin by an unknown designer was bought a few years back. The reason was unknown to Albright who mentioned in the book to ‘loathe’ snakes. It was perfect though and the press loved it. Albright was sending a message in her own way to the world. This soon became her trademark and still continues to this day.

Albright wearing serpent pin with her ‘don’t mess with me’ face!

Albright has many more pins and stories in this book that could be finished in an evening. A few more from her collection.

Bug Pin by Iradj Moini

 

Lady Liberty clock pin by Gijis Bakker of the Netherlands

Are there any pins you wear to work or wear on your coat for going out? I brought some that belonged to my grandmother that can take a commute to work or errands on the weekend! Thank you for reading and check back for more!

Top hat Eagle pin, 1940 by Trifari

 

Hidden Treasures of the Romanovs

Cover

Conspiracy theories, revolts, grandeur, murder and cover ups are only the start to describe a book that explains how some of the Russian family jewels were saved! It is a relatively short book of 143 pages of text, the drawback at first glance is the few photos and even fewer colored photos in this book. The way the book started out also caused some early doubts about how good the book would be. I didn’t really have any set notions about how the story should go but the intro talking about the unmarked grave in Paris of a man I never heard of in all my reading on Russian Royal History caught me off guard. The photo of him (only one that seems to be publicly available) seemed a bit spooky. (Note: The photographer of the photo below is Cecil Bateman which was a name I know).

Albert_photo_gemIf I had not loved the jewelry of the Russian Royal Family (specifically Faberge) I might not have continued on. That would have been a mistake. The man in the picture above is Albert Stopford, born in England to a family of modest means. Albert left to pursue a job selling jewelry of Cartier and Faberge at his shop in London. There he got to be involved with the high society of London. When World War I was starting his connections soon put him in a position to spy for the Allies and members of the Royal family to see what was the state of the war front. The major contact that is important for this story is Albert’s connection to Grand Duchess Vladmir aka Maria Pavlovna (pictured below). Maria was married to the Czar Nicholas’ Uncle, Vladmir.

Maria_photo_gem

For those that do not know the history of the Russian Revolution it is worth taking a deeper look into. The book describes life in Russia for Albert as he watches what is happening to the Czar and the Russian people. I want to just focus mainly on the two chapters in the book about saving the jewels and the fate of the jewels once recovered. The Russian royalty was under strict watch and subjected to searches of their living quarters in hopes of finding jewels and other valuables. Maria was not located in the place that housed her jewels, so she got help from her sons, other royal relatives and Albert to sneak back in and claim her jewels.  In the meantime, her sister the former Queen Alexandra,(her husband King Edward was dead at this time),  got her son King George (current Queen Elizabeth’s Grandfather) to help get his  Aunt out of the country to save her from a soon to be death. Sneaking back into the palace was no easy task, it was guarded and watched by outsiders. A story in the book told of a royal family member hearing of their palace getting ransacked because the maid forgot to turn off the lights when she left the palace that evening and suspicions were raised about who was in there. Once the men snuck past the guards, Maria’s details of where they could find her jewels was perfectly described.  This made it easy for the men to locate where they should be and thankfully were found untouched. Albert and the group wrapped up the jewels in newspaper and placed them into Albert’s two Gladstone bags. I found a photo of what a Gladstone bag for a gentleman in the early 1900’s would look like. (below)

gladstonebag

Maria is not reunited with her jewels until she gets to London, much later. Albert puts them in a London bank vault until she is safe and able to deal with them. Albert also does not do this for money but out of a sense of friendship and duty.

With the end of the Russian Royal family it also marked an era of amazing wealth and glamorous social scene. I want to share an except from the book talking about Maria’s jewels and how she enjoyed them. The first account is by Consuela Vanderbilt who visited Maria Pavlovna at Saint Petersburg : ‘She [Maria]  had a majestic personality, but could be both gracious and charming. After dinner she showed me her jewels set out in glass cases in her dressing room. There were endless parures of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls to say nothing of semi-precious stones such as turquoises, tourmalines, cat’s eyes and aquamarines.’  What a night that would be! It seems Russian etiquette called for the hostess show off her jewels to honored female guests. Not what would be called tasteful by others but I would be ok with seeing jewelry at a dinner party!

The other account of Maria and her jewels describes her relationship with her granddaughters. ‘The glass cases were set into four corners of her dressing-room, with red stones (rubies), blue (sapphires), green (emeralds), and white (pearls) in each corner, giving the room an almost octagonal appearance. Her grandchildren remembered their visits as small girls to the Vladimir Palace, and especially the inner sanctum of their grandmother’s dressing-room. To amuse the girls Maria would often invite them to choose what jewels she should wear for her next formal occasion. Red, perhaps? Or blue, green, or white? Olga, the eldest [granddaughter], usually made the final choice.’ Sounds like a typical day spent with a grandmother, lots of fun and laughter playing with grandma’s treasures!

So what became of these jewels? The Russian royals were left with little more than the clothes they came with. Maria needed to sell many of her jewels to continue to live a comfortable lifestyle. Many jewels were discreetly sold to other members of Europe’s royal family, but most were sold far below there true value. An example of a jewel that stayed within a royal family is the Diamond and Pearl Vladimir Tiara, a favorite of Maria’s.

Pearl_tiara_owners

You can see on the far left, in the photo above,Maria is wearing the tiara which was purchased later by Queen Mary who was Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother and passed this crown onto her.

Another look at the tiara worn by Queen Elizabeth (below) shows it missing its pearl drops.

Pearl_tiara_nopearls

Queen Mary had a set of Emerald drops made that could be interchanged with the pearls or just plain as shown. It is nice to have options right? A close up of the tiara with both pearls and emeralds (below).

Pearl_tiara_emeralds

Which look do you like better?

Another jewel that went through a few hands was a set of emeralds. Maria is shown wearing them in a head dress (I got a close up and colored in the emeralds green to highlight), that was converted into an emerald necklace. Remember that center stone with the six sides, in the next set of photos.

EmeraldOwners_1

The next owner was Van Cleef & Arpels that sold them to heiress, Barbara Hutton. She had them as a necklace and then converted them into the iconic tiara that is shown on her. It was also shown in my last review of Famous Jewelry Collectors. You can read more on that transaction through this Sotheby’s article.

Hutton’s emerald’s were then sold again and used in a set of jewelry by Bulgaria that was bought and famously worn by none other than Elizabeth Taylor!

EmeraldOwners_2

I remembered the name of her jewelry being called the Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite in some articles and saw that many of these emeralds were indeed from Maria’s collection. Bulgari bought back the collection when Dame Elizabeth’s jewels hit the auction block in 2011.

A photo combining the British royalty and Hollywood royalty was found online from the later 1970’s when Taylor was married to Senator John Warner. I like seeing the jewels out and enjoyed!

Elizabethemeralds_queen

My Final Thoughts

Albert Stopford’s sacrifices to help save these treasures are still being appreciated today even if many are unaware of his story. I highly recommend this book. It does jump around at the beginning trying to establish different characters stories but it all ties up as the revolution plays out. With the recent world events there were some passages about the people over throwing the ruling family and the struggles of surviving in this paranoid, desolate and divided society  as a product of the revolution that had some difficulty for me to focus on the history and not see some current parallels to the modern day current events. That makes this book all the more necessary to read, so history is learned from the past and not repeated! Check back soon for more book bling!

 

Famous Jewelry Collectors

With summer in full swing many of you probably have plans for how you will spend your summer, trips to the beach, finishing outdoor projects, planning family outings, etc. Summer also has fewer jewelry auctions to preview and is traditionally a slower time for jewelry stores so not a lot of new inventory is in. How will I spend my summer to fill that void of jewelry? I plan on starting on a summer reading list focused on jewelry, book bling. So for the summer I plan to post once a week a book review of a jewelry book I have read. I went to the local library and found several that will be fun to learn about. My first deals with famous jewelry collectors. The book, Famous Jewelry Collectors, is by Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes published in 1999.  Here is the cover:

Famous_Jewelry_Collectors_book_cover

I saw this cover and knew this book was off to a great start. I have featured several of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels on my Instagram and consider her jewels the finest collection I’ve ever seen!

The chapters about the collectors are broken out into three groups by their social class.

1: Screen Actresses and a Diva

Merle Oberon – Mary Pickford– Ava Gardner –  Paulette Goddard – Joan Crawford- Renata Tebaldi

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2: Aristocracy

Cornelia, Countess Carven-Gladys Duchess of Marlborough-King Umberto II of Italy-The Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood – The Princes von Thurn und Taxis – The Duchess of Windsor

Aristocracy_group

3: Society

Countess Mona Bismarck – Lydia, Lady Deterding – Daisy Fellowes – Ganna Walska – Barbara Hutton – Helena Rubinstein

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I want to then look at one collector from each group to highlight their story and jewels.

1: Screen Actresses and a Diva: Merle Oberon

Merle_brooches

I have always admired Ms. Oberon’s work. If you haven’t seen Wuthering Heights (1939) (photo of scene below) costarring Laurence Oliver, it is a must!

Merle_Wheights

Her striking features were due to being born to a mother who was Indian and a farther that was British. He died when Merle was a small child, which had her and her mother relocate from Bombay to Calcutta. The fact her mother was dark skinned created a lot of prejudice against Merle and left her ashamed of her past. Her background was kept secret when she became a star. How did Merle go from India to Hollywood? With her stunning looks she always had admirers and one of them offered her a chance to go to France when she was in her late teens. The fling ended when the man met Merle’s mother but now with her in France she found another man who offered her a part in a film he was directing. She moved to London where she worked as a hostess at a café while getting small roles. As she climbed up the ladder to stardom she had suitors and husbands that gifted her with amazing jewels. One of my favorite pieces is a necklace by Cartier bought in London, 1938. The beads are emeralds with diamond spacers (pictured below).

Merle_emeraldbead

Another fun set to see was a set of brooches in turquoise and diamonds by Van Cleef & Arpels (below).

Merle_brooches_turqMerle also had earrings and a necklace to match. She also wore some of her real jewels in her movies. The 1967 movie, Hotel features the turquoise necklace and earrings. The 1938 movie, The Divorce of Lady X, also features an antique emerald and diamond necklace owned by the actress as she costars again with Laurence Oliver. I could not get a good photo of that stunner for this post. Many of her jewels were auctioned by Christie’s in April 1980 after her death in 1979.

2: Aristocracy: Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough

Gladys_painting

The next collector I chose because of her story being unique to all the others in this group. Although it is the usual start with Gladys being very beautiful and charming, pursued by many eligible bachelors. Gladys declined their advances and pursued learning, mastering new languages and increasing her knowledge of art. This was rare for a woman, especially one in high society to not marry, but Gladys had an independent spirit. Her admirers gifted her with jewels throughout her years. One in particular was the Duke of Marlborough, she met him in 1897 when she was about 16 years old and he was 26. The Duke was engaged to a Vanderbilt whom he married but always kept in touch with Gladys.  He was married 26 years to his first wife when he had it annulled and finally got Gladys to marry him when was now 40. She was hesitant because she loved her life without constraints. She did get some major perks and one of them was the jewelry. Below is an imperial pearl and diamond tiara.

Gladys_crown

This belonged to the Romanovs, the Duke bought it after the Bolsheviks sold it and other items of royalty off. Another item of great beauty is this amethyst and diamond sautoir by Cartier, a great example of art deco jewelry (picture below).

Gladys_amethysts

The marriage was not successful they separated in 1933 and the Duke died in 1934. She disappeared out of much of the public view. She was tracked down by a biographer whom heard of her through mentions in a diary by an admirer. The biographer found her in a little village and got her story. She died in October 1977 at age 97 and her jewels auctioned in 1978.

3: Society:  Helena Rubinstein

I had not heard of this woman until reading this book. Helena Rubenstein is the founder of the beauty product line that bears her name. Helena was born in Poland in 1870 and traveled to Australia at 18 to spend time with her brother’s family. She packed several jars of beauty cream with her for the harsh Australian weather. She shared this cream with her new Aussie friends who were happy with the results. The cream was not invented by her but she ended up partnering with the maker to open shops in Australia to sell this cream.  She married and had children but continued building her businesses. The jewelry was mostly bought by her. She would buy what she called ‘quarrel jewelry’. When she and her husband would have disagreements she would indulge herself with a beautiful piece of jewelry.

Helena_chunky_necklace

She loved chunky jewelry which I found interesting because of her petite size. She height was only 4’10’’. She acquired quite a bit of jewelry and in this book it had a story about her experience with airport security. Her jewels were sold big and colorful that Helena would lie and say they were costume and security always believed her! Below are some photos of her and her jewelry.

Helena_hands

I really enjoyed this book and could not cover it all in one post. I hope the women I highlighted help guide you into reading more on them or finding other books that give more details into the life of the collector. Please let me know your thoughts or if you have a question about this book! Look for more book reviews this summer!

 

Jewelry by Suzanne Belperron : A Book Review

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Book cover, sold on Amazon

I knew little about Suzanne Belperron. My first introduction to her work was seeing the blue chalcedony jewelry she designed for Wallis Simpson. I then learned bits and pieces about her life and jewelry designs. These bits of information amounted to photos of past jewelry identified as a Belperron piece and dates such as birth, death, job history, etc. When I heard a new book on her life and jewelry was being published in February, I put my name on Amazon’s pre-order list. Madam Belperron remained a private person throughout her life but it is her work and those around her, clients, coworkers, etc, that really tell a story of the woman behind the designs. The book is fabulous! It has plenty of designs but tells her life in stages and through accounts of those that knew her. I want to share a few stories from her life along with techniques Belperron invented to create the style that makes her pieces recognizable and sought after to this day.

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Photos of Suzanne Belperron on Left and Right. Center, Diamond and Platinum Brooch by Belperron auctioned at Skinner Inc, Boston.

 

Her Jewelry:

Virgin Gold– Madame Belperron had many of her creations made with ‘virgin gold’. It was gold with a high gold content of 22 karat with a matte finish. It was reminiscent of ancient gold used in Greek jewelry. The technique used is ‘doubled or lined gold’. Unfortunately, due to the softness of the gold it would not suit well to hold in all the gemstones and diamonds for her work. The technique needed a modification so her 22kt gold jewelry received a stronger layer of 18kt gold beneath it. Then to achieve the ancient look, the gold required hammering, chiseling and burnishing.

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Examples of Virgin Gold by Belperron

 

Honey Comb Setting– Another effect Belperron used in her jewelry was mixing stones of various sizes next to each other as though they fit perfectly like puzzle pieces. Setting stones of different sizes next to one another is actually a difficult technique to achieve. The workers of Belperron’s created an irregular honey comb setting, “in which each stone appeared to be contained within a single cell-like compartment, scored as if with the sharp blade of a knife.” The effect is stunning to see the stones of various sizes fit together harmoniously in her designs.

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Examples of Honey Comb Setting by Belperron

 

These are just a few of her amazing techniques used to create her timeless pieces.

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A necklace from the House of Boivin, Madame Belperron work in the Maison Boivin from 1919-1932, this necklace is similar to her work which was auctioned at Sotheby’s in the Winter of 2015.

 

Her Clients/Friends:

I am going to pick a few short tales about Madame Belperron that I found particularly telling about her character and life in France around the 1940’s.

 

Protecting her Clients

  • Suzanne Belperron was careful about reproducing a design already owned by a client. A story had Baroness Marie-Helene de Rothschild asking Belperron to copy a pair of gold and diamond earclips currently owned by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. The Baroness explained that the Duchess had given her consent to the request. Belperron still refused. The duchess had to send a personal confirmation to Belperron for the earrings to be commissioned.
  • World War II was occurring when Belperron was working in Paris, her owner Bernard Herz was under an added strain of trying to stay out of the concentration camps. His son Jean was fighting with the allies but Herz and his wife wanted to stay at their home and not flee. Belperron was introduced through some of her clients to a woman who was interested in buying a ring. The cost of the ring was out of the woman’s price range so Madame Belperron had to turn her away. Later both Belperron and Herz were arrested on grounds of concealing a Jewish business. Suzanne knew if the Gestapo found her list of clients and suppliers, they could all be at risk of being jailed or worse. So on the walk to Gestapo Headquarters Belperron swallowed pages from her address book to conceal the names. That is dedication. It is also a sad tale on really knowing who you do business with and the importance of strong relationships.
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Belperron necklace owned by Duchess of Windsor, auctioned at Sotheby’s

Business and Pleasure-

  • Madame Belperron was released but Herz was sent to an internment camp. He did not survive but letters that they wrote to each other tells of the respectt and love they shared. There are phrases from their letters shared in this book one particularly tender letter to Belperron by Herz states,”Tres chere amie, this is the big departure, I leave in good health and with full confidence that I will see you again. Otherwise goodbye, all my love, I have no regrets.” They were more than friends they were lovers, while they were married to other people. Herz’s wife also died in a camp. Before leaving Herz signed all of his business to Suzanne with the hope, he would come back.
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Belperron cuff owned by Duchess of Windsor, auctioned at Sotheby’s

A New Beginning

  • Herz’s son Jean survived and returned to find the world had changed he recalls, he “had returned home to a wife who wanted a divorce, an infant son who didn’t recognize him and a mistress who had taken another lover.” The business his father own was in someone else’s possession and he was left with very little funds after all was settled. Belperron had other plans for the business. Belperron found Jean and offered the business back to him with no conditions. Once the legal matters were straightened out, Jean was able to keep his father’s business. He was so touched by Suzanne’s gift that they became co-owners addressing the business as Jean Herz-Suzanne Belperron SARL.
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Clips from the book courtesy of Amazon

These are only a few of the fascinating stories in this book. Again, I highly recommend reading it! I hope you enjoyed this post. Please sign up for my email list to keep up to date with Data in the Rough!

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Pearl bracelet by Belperron, auctioned at Sotheby’s